Germany: German luxury carmaker Audi on Tuesday said it had detected “irregularities” in the emissions controls of recent A6/A7 models, prompting it to halt deliveries in the latest twist in the “dieselgate” scandal dogging parent company Volkswagen.
The admission came after Germany’s transport ministry said it was investigating suspicions that the carmaker had installed a new “illegal defeat device” in some 60,000 A6/A7 models worldwide, around half of which are driving on German roads.
The revelations were first reported by news weekly Spiegel, which said mass recalls were “highly likely”.
According to Spiegel, the cars are equipped with software that deliberately slows down the use of a special pollution-cleaning fluid in the final 2,400 kilometres (1,500 miles) of its life span, to avoid drivers having to refill the so-called AdBlue liquid in between regular service updates.
But reducing the AdBlue function also drastically lowers its effectiveness in neutralising the engine’s harmful nitrogen oxides, making the diesel cars far more polluting during that time.
In a statement, Audi said it had reported the irregularities to the authorities itself as soon as they were detected in routine testing and “immediately halted deliveries” of those models.
Audi chief executive Rupert Stadler said the company had taken swift action “because full disclosure lies in our highest interest”.
Customers would be notified and offered a software update, Audi said.
It added that it would cooperate with the inquiries launched by Germany’s KBA vehicle licensing authority, which earlier said it had asked Audi for clarifications.
It’s not the first time the German car industry has been accused of AdBlue tampering, with Daimler and Volkswagen both facing the threat of recalls over similar accusations in February.
The alleged AdBlue scam differs from the one that sparked Volkswagen’s “dieselgate” crisis in 2015, when the auto giant admitted to installing software in some 11 million diesels globally that could detect when a vehicle was undergoing pollution tests and reduce emissions accordingly.
Outside the lab however, the cars were vastly more polluting, spewing up to 40 times more toxic gases than legally allowed.
The scandal, which involved VW’s own brand cars but also those made by Audi, Porsche, Skoda and Seat, has so far cost the group more than 25 billion euros ($31 billion) in buybacks, fines and compensation, mainly in the US where the cheating was first uncovered.
“Cars in the United States are not affected” by Audi’s latest woes, the luxury carmaker stressed in its statement.